MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Trailing by 14 with just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation, junior quarterback Mark Piccirillo helped orchestrate an incredible comeback as the Wesleyan University football team defeated Tufts University Saturday night in overtime, 24-17. Piccirillo found senior captain Eric Meyreles in the corner of the end zone for a 24-yard score with :06 on the clock, and minutes later connected with senior Mike Breuler for a 14-yard game winning touchdown in OT. On the Jumbos' ensuing possession, senior captain Shayne Kaminski sealed the victory with an interception.
The Wesleyan offense managed just three points until the 10:09 mark of the fourth quarter, before Piccirillo and his receivers started to click. He completed 23-of-37 passes for 279 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, while Breuler amassed an incredible 201 yards receiving on 13 catches and one score. Meyreles finished with two touchdowns on four receptions and 53 yards.
Saturday's game was the second night game in school history, as the Cardinals picked up their first win of 2017 and are now 1-1 on the year. With the loss, Tufts falls to 1-1.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- Wesleyan opened the game with a 49-yard completion by Breuler. However, they were forced to kick a 39-yard field just four plays later, and the kick was blocked.
- Taking over from their own 22-yardline, the Jumbos went 78 yards in 4:07 as quarterback Ryan McDonald capped off the drive with an impressive 35-yard rush. He escaped pressure, ran to the outside and leaped over a Cardinal defender, flipping over onto his back in the end zone.
- Wesleyan was intercepted two plays later as a tipped pass went into the hands of Steve DiCienzo. However, the Cardinals' defense forced a turnover on downs to regain possession.
- After a punt by the home team, Tufts took over from their own 29-yardline. Eight plays later, McDonald tossed a 33-yard pass into the end zone, but Ben Thaw took advantage of a Jumbos miscue and intercepted the pass for a touchback.
- Wesleyan was forced to punt on its next drive, and Tufts capitalized on their ensuing possession, adding three points to the board to take a 10-0 lead with 7:13 remaining in the half.
- On their next drive, the Cardinals had a chance to cut the lead to seven but a bad snap on a field goal attempt resulted in a lost fumble as Tufts took over from their own-34.
- The next three possessions ended in punts as the visitor's held a 10-point lead at the break.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- Tufts opened the second half with the ball, but Wesleyan forced a three-and-out. Eight plays later, the home team got on the board as Corey Phillips '17E connected on a 25-yard field goal. The drive was highlighted by a 31-yard run by Gernald Hawkins '18 down to the Tufts-8.
- After back-to-back punts, Tufts began their third drive of the half in good field position, at the Wesleyan-39. A 28-yard run by McDonald got the visitor's inside the 10, but two costly penalties brought them back to the 25-yard line. The Jumbos eventually lined up for a field goal, but tried to fake it as Brandon Morris '19 and Grant Williams '20 disrupted the play and sacked the placeholder for a 14-yard loss.
- The game remained 10-3 entering the fourth quarter, but Jack Dolan returned a punt 85-yards for Tufts to increase the lead to 14 with 13:26 on the clock.
- The Jumbos momentum didn't last long, however, as Wesleyan answered with a 9-play, 69-yard drive in 3:12 that was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown catch by Meyreles. Piccirillo completed six passes on the drive.
- The Cardinals defense forced a three-and-out, but a Wesleyan fumble just 2:01 later gave the ball back to the visitor's with 6:41 on the clock.
- Tufts took 5:02 off the clock on their next drive, but was forced to punt after reaching the Wesleyan-40.
- Taking over at their own-20 with 1:39 on the clock, Piccirillo completed a three-yard pass on first down but was sacked on the next two plays. Facing a long 4-and-15, the junior connected with Breuler for a 33-yard completion to keep the drive going. Slowly making their way down the field with zero timeouts remaining, Piccirillo heaved a 24-yard pass into the back left corner of the end zone to a wide open Meyreles who pulled in the game-tying score with :06 on the clock to force overtime.
- Wesleyan got the ball first, starting at the Tufts-25. Piccirillo rushed 11 yards on first down, and then found Breuler streaking into the end zone for 14-yard score. It took only two plays for the Cardinals offense, which was clicking on all cylinders at this point, to score the game-winner.
- The Jumbos had a chance to tie it, but McDonald was picked off three plays later as Kaminski sealed the win to cap off an incredible comeback in front of a packed Corwin Stadium.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan's defense was terrific in the second half, holding Tufts to 114 yards.
- The Cardinals outgained the Jumbos in the fourth quarter, 170-45, and totaled 385 yards for the game compared to Tufts' 366 yards.
- Through the air, Wesleyan amassed 279 yards and ran for 106. Tufts gained 155 yards passing and 211 rushing. McDonald accumulated 122 yards on the ground, and scored once.
- Defensively, Morris and Greg Holt were all over the field as they racked up 16 tackles each. Kaminski and Jude Lindberg '19 added 11 apiece for the Cardinals, and Williams added eight with 1.5 sacks.
- The Jumbos held a slight edge in time of possession, 31:34-to-28:26, but Wesleyan was penalized just once for 14 yards while Tufts recorded 11 penalties for 100 yards.
- The Cardinals are back on the road next Saturday (9/30) and will play at Hamilton (0-2) beginning at 1 p.m.